Day 81 – Heading for Elevation and Cold (February 1, 2021)

Night 81- Tucson, Arizona

There are ups and downs. Some all arounds. Some wind, some rain, and hotter days. We have been through quite a few of these and combinations to boot. Now we are heading into a new chapter. Pure elevation and cold.

This day would be our last decent descent before we begin our constant climb. I’m glad the wind didn’t stop us.

With that, we flew into Tucson. Downhill and with a bit of a breeze on our backs, we hit the outer limits of the town by noon. Just 15 miles left, but we would extend that with some exploring.

First thing is first, we met up with Curt. It’s been a while since I’ve seen my cousin and unfortunately we would have to wait a bit longer before we could actually hang out because he was having his own home owner issues. Something along the lines of shoddy roofing and black mold. So while he and his wife were ready to host us a week before, now they were in an Air bnb themselves because of all these issues. No worries. Other than a quick “hey, how ya doin?” Our gathering had another purpose. He had my camera. Fixed by Addison, it arrived a week late and was shipped to Curt. Package received. Time to sort it out again.

Next on the ride was a stop by an iconic bike shop, Campfire Cycling. This place specializes in touring and bike packing. It has made an appearance in a few YouTube channels we used during our early research for the trip, but it was also acted as the “theatre” that debuted “I just want to ride”, which I mentioned in the previous post. It was pretty weird seeing this place in person. It is just a bike shop, but they have this look to their showroom that I really enjoy. It’s all practical and easily moved around so they can use the space for whatever they need outside of normal shop use.
So we spent some time picking their brains and got some critical info from another tourist that happened to overhear our plans.

The next stop was REI. We have a few things to look into in regards to fending off the cold. Some of the routes we discussed have gotten slammed with snow because of this most recent dump of “two years worth of rain” in the south west. So we are preparing for some hurdles to come our way and hope to make it past them. REI might help us, but unfortunately this one did not have what we needed.

For the night we have come back around to family of The Bicycle Recycle in Williamsport. The Stones have a few family members all in the same spot here in the Catalina foothills, so this is where we will stay. A big welcome and plenty of excellent food.

The Stones were excellent. They wanted to show us a bunch of Tucson and offered up their guest room for a few nights. I’m not sure how long we will stay here, but we have to plan around some snow, or out wait it as it thaws. So we were offered a room as long as we like and we took another day to wander around town and then go sight seeing. So really it’s been a few nights, but I’m going to stick with counting the travel nights.

So I’m here eating my oatmeal and drinking coffee. It’s supposed to be a kind day of weather as we make our way to another host just shy of Phoenix. We think we have a battle strategy for dealing with the sub 20 temperatures. Here is hoping we don’t have to test it too soon. I’ll catch back up tomorrow. Meanwhile, the GoPro is back and I’ll probably film too much. Have a great day everyone! Don’t let a Nor’easter get you down. Here is a lot of pictures.

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Day 80 – Up a Creek with 2 Pedals (January 29, 2021)

Night 80- Benson, Arizona

38 miles or 85? Let’s check the conditions. . . 38 it is.

Can’t have tail winds every day. Back to 23 mph head winds. Now featuring a bit of climbing. And to spice it up, the greatest winds will be during your descent so you still have to pedal…

Okay, so I think I found the best way to explain headwinds to non-cyclist. Imagine you are walking in a neck deep creek. There is a slight current. Standing still takes a little effort. Moving up stream takes decent effort and you can’t really go too fast. If you want to go faster, you just kind of wriggle a little more, use way more energy, and don’t really move much faster.

Now let’s talk about these pretty mountains and why we had to pedal to go down hill. We had a rest stop at the top of a hill. Nearly 30 miles of just climbing between and over hills. Some were still holding on to their snow from the other day, but most of them had shed it in the 60 degree afternoon sun.

Arizona definitely has a special beauty. While my legs don’t enjoy how tightly packed the peaks are to one another, my brain does. Now when a peak comes into view we are only staring at/approaching it for 1 hour instead of 3 hours. Only so long you can stare at the same pile of rocks. So today was a nice change of pace.

After our lunch, we took off over the last main peak of our day. Suddenly the rocks transformed. Now we were surrounded in wind shaped boulders. Some balancing precariously on one another. If I could have taken a picture of every single one, I would. But for the sake of time and traffic whizzing by, I only took pictures of every other rock.

Once the wonder faded, the reality set in. We had 7 miles of down hill ahead of us, which is usually a glorious thing, but as soon as we rounded the boulder field the wind stopped us. Rolling down the side of the mountain and we had to pedal through the current to make progress down the slope. Wild.

It wasn’t all bad. It was a pretty warm day. A novelty that only lasts until you start soaking the cold weather layers you had with sweat because it’s been windy and in the 30s and 40s for the last week. Not too bad though. I just really like flying down really long slopes.

Wind aside, 38 miles still isn’t too far so we found ourselves in Benson and the Red Barn RV park before 4 pm. Grab some morning snacks at the gas station and set up for the night. We had a little rain and wind at night, but nothing we haven’t seen before. I’m just glad we were already set up before the storm.

Here’s to riding into Tucson and better weather for tomorrow’s forecast. I hope the day was nice for everyone else. I’ll see you all tomorrow.

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Day 79 – Straight Lines and Slow Growing Mountains (January 28, 2021)

Night 79- Willcox, Arizona

Remember how I said we just set a new record is fastest pace over 60 miles? Yeah… we beat it again. On top of that, I think I just set my fastest speed on flat ground. 34 mph. Thanks tail winds.

All the hype aside, this day was really straightforward. The night was a bit cold, but since we picked up some sweat clothes, even a night in the 20s isn’t too bad. Tent camping at KOAs is nice. Other than that one flash flood, we have only had good experiences with them. Cheaper than a motel and more organized than cheaper RV courts. Up and at it by 9. The wind was picking up, so packing up was a bit brisk, but these are friendly winds.

74 miles on I-10. Here we go.

The day started kind of cold, then we stopped at a rest stop for snacks.

We stopped briefly at the border for a picture and at a picnic spot to eat snacks. 10 more miles till lunch.
Then the day warmed up more around the time we stopped at a rest stop for lunch.
The day heated up even more. By the end of it we had shed most of our layers and were sweating pretty well. Welcome back to the desert, where you can see snow all around.

The mountains were pretty cool. With the exception of South facing faces, every hill and mountain held on to its snow. The dusty plains weren’t so dusty with all the run off. Some even sported lakes.

The wind and downhills were terrific. Just good fun flying at high speed down long stretches of road. It broke up the monotony of riding in a straight line while staring at slow growing mountains.

We ended the ride with one last push towards town. 7 miles to go? What if we pushed 30 miles an hour the whole way there? (To give you an idea of how that feels when peddling, imagine getting to drive 90 mph in a 55 zone. Legally and safely. Just now faster)

The day would end with another stay at a KOA. The pricing for these are so strange. This one was cheaper than the last, but it came with power, water, and a pool/hot tub. Bless the cycling gods, the hot tub was open and all ours. After the other day, we were still pretty beaten up. Our legs and knees were hurting something fierce. Now we can heal.

So with that, we have food, water, hot water, and shelter. What a day and what a ride. 2 days to Tucson. Too bad we are forecasted to get slapped with wind and climbing tomorrow. Eh, enjoy the day when you can. Have a great day everyone.

(P.S. I know my posting has become a bit unscheduled. The cold mornings keep my fingers from texting it and the longer days keep me from from forming comprehensive thought. If you’re still around, welcome. Enjoy the views.)

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Day 78 – The New Land Speed Record… for Us (January 27, 2021)

Night 78- Deming, New Mexico

This is going to be a short one. And it is why it is short that I am grateful.

Recap- Just yesterday I was riding with an inch of snow on my chest and headwinds that would stop a Yugo.

On this day, the winds were in our favor. 60 miles in less than 4 hours. We were moving so quickly that we set a new record for fastest average ride (with the new criteria of any day over 50 miles). 15.8 mph average over 60 miles. Dang.

It was windy, but you don’t feel it when it’s pushing you forward. It was cold in the morning, but that was all I could complain about. The sun came and went with a bit of warmth. We ate well and slept well. This night we were camping, so no more warm hotel room. At least it isn’t supposed to be in the teens.

We did hit a special sign. The continental divide. This is a sign has far more meaning geographically, but for us it meant we crossed the route of The Tour Divide. A route I hope to conquer, but that is for a day far in the future. If you want to know more, please check out Lael Wilcox’s “I just want to ride” on YouTube. I hope to be considered as wild as her and the others who take part.

Loads of mountains and snow trying to thaw. This was a needed 180 turn in how the weather was treating us. Not much else to talk about while riding lines on I-10. Sorry for lacking pictures too. I try to take pictures of the mountains, but after staring at them for hours, I lose track and stop paying attention to them. Tomorrow we leave New Mexico.

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Day 76/77 – Escape II: The Winds of Las Cruces (January 25/26, 2021)

Night 76/77- Deming, New Mexico

Okay. “Escape from El Paso” was cute. Trying to leave Las Cruces was an actual test that took two tries. We woke up and rode out of town… but we only made it about 4 miles before getting blasted with wind. So we had to make some calls.

If you are new to this journey then I’ll catch you up on a major hurdle. 20mph wind in the face makes for a very long day. It’s okay if it’s a gust or two, but when it is forecasted to be the average windspeed and direction, then that means we are going nowhere anytime soon. So, with 58 more miles ahead of us, we decided to try again tomorrow.

So we got a hotel. This way we wouldn’t freeze in the 19 degree weather and we would be able to get up and roll at first light. The wind wasn’t supposed to pick up until 12 and there was only a slight chance of snow. So we would leave at 7am and have a good 5 hours to cut down that 60+ miles to something more bearable in high winds.

So we turned back and tried to run some errands. Visit the local bike shop and just kill time. We still rode 15 miles that day, but tomorrow we would actually move forward.

And so we go.

7 am and we are rolling. We are dressed in some of our warmest clothes because it’s still in the high teens/low twenties with light 8 mph winds already blowing in our eyes.

We started with a 300 foot climb. Good morning legs. Now I’m warm. Let’s go. We were moving, this wasn’t so bad. As we continued down the road it was clear how much colder it got up here. We saw the snow on the mountains across town before, but now it was everywhere. We had entered some higher plains. This cold would have been the death of my hands if not for one of yesterday’s errands being buying winter gloves to wear over my bike gloves. Who thought it was a good idea to make my brake levers out of aluminum? Sucks the warmth right out of bare skin.

The morning continued just smoothly. There was only 2 stops along the way. With the clouds coming and going, we could only see mountains off in the distance, but never close points of reference. Just a grind. But an easy grind.

Until about 11. Then the day became a mental and physical battle.

The wind had shifted and grown much, much stronger. Average wind speed was around 24 mph now. So we were only able to crawl along at 6 or 7 mph. The last 20 miles of our day would take nearly the same amount of time as the first 40.

Oh yeah, and now it was snowing. You know when you are driving your car on the highway, it’s snowing and really windy, so the snow swirls around like it doesn’t really touch the ground? And the wind is strong enough to push your car around? That was our life for about and hour and a half. Then the snow settled and we still had 2 more hours of wind.

It was our coldest day. I’ll fight the cold, I’ll conquer hills, and I’ll laugh my way through the rain…. but the wind is the biggest antagonist. Our rigs have a wind speed limit. We can try to push through, but for what? Battered legs, battered brains, and no breaks.

When we finally rolled into our room, we both just fell onto our beds and yelled for a bit. We could really talk during the ride, but we were on the same page. Just gotta let it out.

It’s 12 degrees outside and won’t get about the 30s. We slept safe and warm last night. The best thing for today is something I’d like toast a morning beverage to. Today we are supposed to have a tail wind all day. Cheers to that. I hope you all have a great day. Yesterday was a soul sucking challenge, but today is a better day. I’ll see you tomorrow.

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Day 75 – Escape from El Paso (January 23, 2021)

Night 75- Las Cruces, New Mexico

Or a better title (which I used on Strava) would be “escape from El Paso”. This one was a test of both planning and adaptability.

Before rolling out of our hotel, I contacted a guy from Warmshowers about hosting. Unfortunately he couldn’t host us, but he had some route advice for the second half of our 60 miles this day. Trouble was getting to that road.

See, we were south east of the large patch of mountains. Because of this we had three options. 1) cut around the east side, climb an extra 1000 feet, and have no resources on this barren stretch. 2) tough out the first 10 miles of I-10 as it separates from the other highways and hope there is a shoulder or no construction. Or 3) weave through the foothills and the suburban Mesa while trying to convince Google maps that it was a good idea.

So we took option 3. Constantly adapting our path and being forced on the craziest sidewalks I’ve ever been on. Twist, turns, spike traps, dramatic 4 foot drops down a 45 degree slope, and most of it being up hill. Crossing over the mass I10 super highway marked the end of that maze and the beginning of the long ride along a river of sand and getting pushed around by gated communities. Communities that Google does not recognize as existing.

Section 3 of this great escape was a bike path. A pretty nice ride down a gently weaving path. Only issue was what lay in the grass and occasionally on the path. Goat heads and spike strips. These are some mean pieces of greenery. Thorn/daggers strong enough to puncture my anti-puncture treads…multiple times. Throw in one extra flat tire from a bad patch job and you had a sad and frustrating afternoon for Collin.

Part four of the day was pretty nice. The large mountains to our right, eventually lit up by the sunset and swallowed by the following darkness. Pecan orchards everywhere. At times the perfect grids of empty trees looked pretty spooky with night falling as fast as it was.

With a late entry to the town and being pretty burnt out from the labors of escaping the labyrinth, we grabbed another cheap hotel. McDonald’s next door had a closed lobby, but we were told to just walk up the drive through. So we did. Probably one of the goofiest things I’ve done this week, for sure. Standing at the microphone, we had to enlist the help of the guy behind us to roll his car forward to activate the pressure pad that tells the employees we were there. The guy was a champ because he rolled forward and back for both of us without being asked. He seemed to get a kick out of the situation. Standing in line with a could of cars feels a bit more natural on bikes in traffic. But on foot… in the drive through? Just kind of weird.

So here we are in New Mexico. No eventful state line sign this time. I think we straddled the line for a bit of the afternoon, but we are in now. Texas is over. Tucson is the next target location, but for now we have New Mexico. I’ve had my coffee and wrote two of these posts already, with clear weather and easy directions, hopefully today is pretty chill. Have a great day everyone!

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Day 74 – How Strange to Walk After Riding Several Thousand Miles (January 22, 2021)

Night 74- El Paso, Texas

There are some mornings I’ll wake up and have to remind myself where we are before peeking out my tent door. I slept so well this night that I really didn’t want to get up. I really didn’t want to get up once I saw how wet my rainfly had gotten from morning dew. I remembered how wet my shoes and socks were. I saw how much mud was caked on my shoes. Getting out of bed can be a tricky thing some mornings. Especially when there is quite enough work immediately ahead.

Where were we? The Tiger Restaurant/Truck Stop. Why is is called that? Because they have 3 large cages out back for the tigers… which are no longer there. Good thing since the rest of the place had seem much better days and definitely couldn’t sustain large cats. That and the cages were only 20×20. Tiger king would be ashamed of this.

Today’s goal was El Paso and we decided not to take 10 into town because interstate highways get pretty dicey when they merge with 4 other roadways. So it was side roads for us. I can’t complain much. The surface of the road could have been better for large chunks, but the view for the entire day was large mountains to the left in Mexico and hills to the right. Alfalfa and cotton fields would open things up so we could see for miles, but this would also be the start of pecan land. I cannot say I had any idea how important pecans were to some people. I’d put it a notch higher than boiled peanuts in the deep south. The orchards were just beginning, but the signs for buying and selling were everywhere.

The day was pretty chill. A little bit of wind in the 3rd quarter of 70 miles made for an annoying afternoon, but the last quarter was spend riding through suburbs and long walking/biking paths. With showers and laundry desperately needed after the day before, we grabbed a cheap hotel and popped over to Walmart for some supplies.

Have I mentioned how weird it is to walk? We were walking to Walmart when it came to us that we just walked more in one night than we do in most weeks. Aside from walking the dogs at Addison’s, we don’t usually walk more than a quarter mile a day. Standing or biking. That’s it. I might have to do some rehab before I can run like I used to because right now I probably look like a baby horse taking its first steps.

A pretty straightforward day. Not easy, but when you have been staring at, what appears to be, the same mountain range for 6 hours, the day seems pretty simple. Lot of podcast and audiobooks on these days. I’d love to take some recommendations, but I’m already down the rabbit hole on some that seem infinite. But let me know what you’ve been reading or listening to. Give me a favorite song or one that’s been stuck in your head in the comments. I hope today’s a good day for everyone.

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Day 73 – A Cold, Wet, Finger-Numbing Breeze (January 21, 2021)

Night 73- The Tiger Restaurant, Texas

If you didn’t notice, there isn’t a town name this night. The Tiger is a truck stop from a different time, but it was just the goal for tonight since they allow camping and is the only building for miles.

The ride was a different thing.

Up and out of Van Horn was easy enough. We knew we had overcast and a chance of rain later in the day, so a little bit of sun made getting on the road easy. Maybe a little too easy since after 2 miles we stopped to take off most of our layers. At least there was a nice rest stop with a view.

This is also our first time on an interstate highway. A thing we can actually do in some areas. The only places we cannot us interstates are in major metro areas. The shoulders are wide and the surface is pretty smooth and consistent outside construction zones.

So as we rolled through these hills and peaks leading to the next big clearing, it got a bit colder. A few drops of water hit my face and the humidity spiked. Never fear, this isn’t hot humidity. It’s cold humidity.

This would be our life for 30 miles. Then a lunch stop at a Valero with built in Mexican restaurant would let us warm up and dread going back out.

Actual dread.

Mainly because now it was truly raining and colder.

Side note: my rain jacket may have been left in Houston seeing as how that was the last time we saw rain. Back to the dread.

20 miles left, cold, rain, and camping tonight with no other options. So we went.

The double edge sword of the day was that most of it was downhill. Easy and really fast riding. We were sitting around 25 mph for some time. The other side of this cruel blade is that that speed comes with a cold, wet, finger numbing breeze.

I would talk more about the landscape, but the heavy mist kind of covered up anything outside of 100 yards. Rolling into the tiger was the best part. The lot was filled with… 5 or 6 trucks. There was so much room. The only issue was the plants and the EXTREMELY sticky clay/mud. Shoes, covered. Tires, coated. Breaks, coated.

Oh yeah, while rolling my bike up to the side wall of the building I heard a funny and continuous farting noise. That’s what happens when you get a puncture and line the hole up with a puddle on the sidewalk.

Set up tents and grab some food at the truck stop restaurant. We made a friend who owns a fleet of trucks and was only there to teach a new guy. He told us about his times riding in the 80s and offered us his card for a truck if we are in a pinch. So that’s pretty cool.

It wasn’t my favorite day. It wasn’t the driest day. It wasn’t the shortest or longest day. That’s it. Fortunately it isn’t supposed to be below 40 degree tonight. Here’s to another, warmer day in another time zone. Hello Mountain time!

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Day 72 – The Desert Wears Prada (January 20, 2021)

Night 72- Van Horn, Texas

The ride into Marfa was nice, but today felt like a record. 75 miles of “nearly flat” with tons of overcast, but no wind. A day of just legs. We averaged 14.5 mph for 75 miles. There were stretches that we held 17 mph with ease. I guess our legs have gotten a bit stronger from all the climbing.

The ride was a near straight line with miles of field on either side. For the first half of the day, if something was big enough, like a blimp, we would see it for hours. Just a little bit ahead of us. We could take guesses as to how far away things were and probably be off by a mile or two.

Just so vast.

The only “town” we would ride through was Valentine. With a questionable population of 201, I don’t think I saw a soul outside. Being the halfway point for the day, we were hoping to find a place to eat or set up and cook. That place would be a mile past the town.

The Prada store. An art installation in the middle of nothing. It looks like a small store and has been preserved well enough to appeared as if it was just plucked from a mall.

So we pulled around back and made lunch. Listening to all the cars that stopped by to get their pictures taken with this strange building. Sometimes multiple groups of cars at a time. So when it was our time to leave, we found a window and got our picture.

Waiting out front was a guy who had been riding his motorcycle for 2 years. Riding for a cause will do that to you. We talked with the guy as he finished up his vlog for the spot. Knowing we would ride past each other in a little bit, we took off.

The second half of the day wasn’t much different. We saw another small pod of javelina and not much else. The vegetation changed drastically at times and didn’t seem friendly to supporting anything larger than a mouse. At some point the clouds started to clear up enough so we could see the massive barrier hills/mountains in the distance. Might be 15 miles, might be 30 miles away. Hard to say. Even more so when Van Horn came into sight. We rounded the last bend of the day and saw the town and the little moving line that is interstate 10. …only thing was that Van Horn was still 10 miles away. So we would spend the next 45 minutes staring at the town and the peaks behind it slowly grow nearer and nearer. That part makes time move pretty slowly.

That record pace had landed us in town at 3:59. Plenty of time to grab some snacks and figure out where we wanted to sleep. Being a major interstate intersection, the hotels were numerous and had competitive pricing to the RV park. It didn’t help the RV parks chances that it was 2 miles in the wrong direction. So here I am, lying in a bed, just 100 feet from a McDonald’s. Just 2 days left in Texas.

Here’s to good weather, good roads, and getting caught up on my posts. Today we ride for a hidden gem on our way to El Paso. McCafe is calling my name. There is no time to be picky with coffee. Not when I haven’t had any in days. Have a great day everyone. May the wind be at your backs and shoulders broad.

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Day 71 – Blasting into Marfa (January 19, 2021)

Night 71- Marfa, Texas

We have been climbing for a couple of days. Just missed a mile above sea level by 100 feet. So we could breath easy and extend our limbs recovery as we BLASTED into Marfa.

Not much climbing at all to start the day. To accompany the first substantial down hill stretch in days was a bonkers tail wind. We had heard that the path north of Marfa was experiencing 25 mph winds and 45 mph gusts… enough to blow us over… but we got a taste of it. Luckily it was to our backs and pushed up forward across these the empty plains just after passing the mountains of Alpine.

I don’t have much more to say about the day. It was supposed to rain that night so we grabbed a motel in prep for the 75 mile day to follow. The hills gave us some sights and the wind threw us across the plains. Overcast kept us cool but blurred out anything truly visual at the ends of the plains. The misty mountains? Yeah, it brought up a song from years past.

I hope the day was as nice and fun for you. Riding a bike at a 30 degree lean may not be for everyone, but it was fun.

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